- Norms Restaurants is an iconic diner chain based in Los Angeles.
- Norms has been featured in countless movies, TV shows, and even a song by Tom Waits. But it’s also a place where normal people gather.
- I ate breakfast at the Norms in West Hollywood, which is one of the most recognisable buildings in the city. Here’s how it went.
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Sometimes, you wanna go where everyone knows your name.
And for many Angelenos, Norms is just that place. The diner chain, founded in 1949 by Norm Roybark, has become interwoven into the cultural tapestry of the city, with more than 20 locations.
It’s a 24/7 gathering place for normal folk, but it’s also been featured in countless movies and TV shows, and even appears in songwriter Tom Waits’ album, “Nighthawks at the Diner.” Most recently, it was the setting for an episode of Jerry Seinfeld’s talk show, “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee.”
On a recent visit to Los Angeles, I went to Norm’s to see if the diner chain that captivates the imagination could also captivate my taste buds. Here’s what it was like.
I went to the location of Norms Restaurant on La Cienega Boulevard in West Hollywood — one of Los Angeles’ most iconic buildings.
This location was built in 1957 and remains one of the most recognisable examples of retro-futuristic “Googie” architecture, which was popular in the post-WWII era. It was designated a historical cultural monument by the LA City Council in 2015.
Once I stepped inside, I could see why. Every detail from the dramatic sloping roof to the bright orange leather seats transported me straight to the not-so-distant past.
I was told to put my name down on a seating list, but I was seated immediately at a table by the window. The first thing my server said to me was, “Would you like some coffee?”
She quickly returned with a mug, poured me a steaming cuppa, and took my order.
The coffee was your standard diner brew. What is it about diner coffee that takes you to that special breakfast mind space?
There was a lipstick stain on my mug, and I wasn’t wearing lipstick. But someone else must have been.
My check arrived soon after I ordered, which was both unusual and convenient.
Soon enough, my breakfast arrived. I’d ordered a “bigger better breakfast” ($US8.99).
I ordered it because my server had told me it had everything. And she was right.
The breakfast plate came with hash browns, bacon, sausages, ham, and two eggs.
It also came with a free side of two hotcakes, which were about the size of my face.
I ordered my eggs over easy, not actually quite knowing what over easy meant. “Over easy” just felt like the right kind of eggs to eat in this environment.
The diner was filled with an eclectic collection of locals and staff clad in classic white collared shirts and black aprons. I felt like I was in a Tarantino film.
But ultimately, I was there for the food. And did the food ever satisfy.
The sausage was soft and juicy.
The bacon was crispy and bursting with flavour.
The hash browns were soft and buttery with a delicately crisped edge.
And I found out what over easy eggs were — fried eggs with very runny yolks.
A drag of the fork, and all the gooey yellow goodness of the yolk was released onto my plate.
But as pretty as these eggs were, I knew they’d be improved with the addition of hot sauce.
The result? Buttery potato, runny egg, and tangy hot sauce together make the ultimate breakfast bite.
My previous diner breakfasts had made me question the presence of ham in breakfast platters. The ham I received had always been a thick, boring cut of the boiled stuff. But Norms showed me that simply frying up the ham makes a whole world of difference.
Next, I moved onto sweeter pastures. I’m not much of a pancake fan, but over the years I’ve forced myself to develop an appreciation.
I asked for a bottle of syrup. It was nothing fancy — simply corn syrup in a refillable jar.
The golden-brown skin was almost caramelised and gave way to a fluffy, forgiving interior.
I tasted a hint of lemon, although that may have been my imagination. These pancakes had me, a pancakes non-lover, craving more.
Everything on my plate was cooked, it seemed, by someone who’d cooked the same thing thousands of times. My meal had been quick and delicious, and best of all …
It was cheap. Before tax and tip, my enormous meal had only cost me $US12.34.
Disclaimer: My perception of pricing may be affected by the fact that I live in New York.